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Wiki > Main > IpodInstallationFromLinux (r15)

How to install Rockbox on your iPod using Linux

ALERT! NOTE: These instructions are now out of date. Please follow the installation instructions in the manual.


Rockbox requires that the main music partition on your iPod is formatted as FAT32. If you have an HFS (Mac) formatted iPod, you will need to convert it to FAT32 before following these instructions.

Step 1 - Compile ipod_fw

  • Download the source code: ipod_fw.c
  • Type gcc -o ipod_fw ipod_fw.c to build the ipod_fw executable.

Step 2 - Preparation for installation

  • Plug your iPod into your computer
  • Run fdisk -l /dev/sda (replacing sda with the device assigned to your iPod) to view the partition table and confirm that this is indeed your iPod. You can use dmesg to discover which device was assigned to your iPod. The following listing shows my 30GB iPod Video assigned to /dev/sdb
usb 4-1: new high speed USB device using ehci_hcd and address 7
scsi4 : SCSI emulation for USB Mass Storage devices
usb-storage: device found at 7
usb-storage: waiting for device to settle before scanning
  Vendor: Apple     Model: iPod              Rev: 1.62
  Type:   Direct-Access                      ANSI SCSI revision: 00
SCSI device sdb: 58605120 512-byte hdwr sectors (30006 MB)
The output of fdisk contains the following lines. It shows the iPod formatted with a FAT32 file system.
## Some text removed
Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1               1          10       80293+   0  Empty
/dev/sda2              11        3648    29222235    b  W95 FAT32
  • Enter
    dd if=/dev/sda of=mbr.bin count=1
    to back up your partition table
  • Enter
    dd if=/dev/sda1 of=bootpartition.bin
    to extract the boot partition to your hard disk. This is typically around 40MB-80MB but less than 10MB will be used.
  • Extract the Apple firmware from the bootpartition.bin using the ipod_fw utility that you built above: ./ipod_fw -o apple_os.bin -e 0 bootpartition.bin
  • iPod Video users also need to extract the Broadcom (video processor) firmware using the command: ./ipod_fw -o apple_sw_5g_rcsc.bin -e 1 bootpartition.bin

Step 3 - Install the bootloader

  • Download a pre-compiled bootloader for your iPod from the IpodInstallation page. The file is named bootloader-[model].bin - for example, iPod nano 1st gen users should grab the bootloader-nano.bin file.
  • Combine the bootloader and the Apple firmware into a new boot partition image: ./ipod_fw -g nano -o rockboot.bin -i apple_os.bin bootloader-nano.bin Replace -g nano with the model of your ipod - type ./ipod_fw without any arguments for usage instructions. NOTE: iPod Video users need a copy of the apple_sw_5g_rcsc.bin file that you extracted in step 2 in the current directory when running ipod_fw
  • Write the new boot partition image back to the iPod: dd if=rockboot.bin of=/dev/sda1

When you disconnect the USB cable, your iPod should reboot. At this stage, it will fail to find a copy of Rockbox itself, and should default into loading the Apple firmware. Once you install Rockbox, you can boot to the Apple firmware by holding down MENU whilst your ipod is booting (note that you need to press and hold this key very early in the boot cycle - just before the apple logo appears). Note: you don't need to disconnect the USB cable at this stage, you can simply move on to the next step.

Step 4 - Install Rockbox

  • You need to download the current build (updated on every source change). You MUST ensure that you download the correct version of Rockbox for your iPod.
  • The fonts package rarely changes so is available separately from the Rockbox Extras page. Download the latest file using the link in the Fonts section of that page.
  • Connect the iPod to your computer and mount the Win95 FAT32 partition on the iPod - by default it's /dev/sda2, but you can check this with fdisk -l /dev/sda. Make sure to mount with -o utf8 if you want non-ascii filenames to work.
  • Unzip the current build and the fonts package into the root directory of the iPod.
  • Unmount your ipod and disconnect the cable.

At this point you should be able to reboot the iPod and load Rockbox by pressing the MENU (top) and SELECT (middle) buttons simultaneously for five seconds.

Recovering from a crash

If your iPod crashes:

  • Reboot your iPod by holding the MENU (top) and SELECT (middle) buttons for around 5 seconds.
  • Whilst the iPod is rebooting, hold SELECT and PLAY together to enter disk mode.

You can then connect the iPod to your PC and start again.
r15 - 06 Mar 2007 - 22:20:47 - DaveChapman

Copyright by the contributing authors.